What's the appropriate age for your child to get a cell phone?

September 14, 2011 2:02:10 PM PDT
Kids are asking to get connected at a younger and younger age. But what should parents know before they buy their tween or teen their first mobile phone?

In an increasingly wireless world, it's happening more often. Tweens, younger than 13 are asking for their own mobile phones.

The National Consumers League recommends parents asking some questions first.

Number one, why does your kid need a cell phone? Do they even need it at all? What will they use it for? What's the budget that you want to set, how much do you actually want to spend on that phone?

If you decide your tween is ready:

  • set that monthly budget, and consequences for any overage fees.
  • put limits on extras like ringtones, apps and games.
  • have a talk about things like sexting, and cyberbullying.
  • and discuss distractions. Make sure they know not to talk or text while biking, or even crossing streets.

    When shopping for the right phone and plan, ask about some key tools. Purchase blockers and content filters can limit what's downloaded. Usage restrictions can put a cap on texts or calls and limit when the phone is used.

    "And even after the phone is purchased, keep the line of communication with your tween, open," said John Breyault with National Consumers League.

    This is all part of a conversation that you should have with your tween and its something that they're going to have to develop as a way to manage their own costs, as they get older.